BISD must pay Heritage Society's attorney's fees in South Park case, appeals court rules
After a year of consideration, the Texas Ninth Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court's ruling awarding attorney's fees to the Beaumont Heritage Society, who unsuccessfully fought to stop the destruction of South Park Middle School.
In 2009, the Beaumont Heritage Society and local "South Park Greenie" Eddie Estilette filed suit against the Beaumont Independent School District, hoping to preserve the 87-year-old campus.
Judge Bob Wortham, who presided over the litigation, had determined there was enough evidence that BISD may have misled voters during the $389 million bond election held in 2007.
On Jan. 6, 2010, Judge Wortham ruled against BISD, verbally ordering that no bond funds could be spent to demolish South Park. He also awarded attorney's fees to the plaintiffs.
As previously reported, six months following the ruling BISD Superintendent Carrol Thomas and Board of Trustees President Woodrow Reese filed an appellate brief, arguing that the trial court erred in awarding attorney's fees to the Heritage Society and Estilette.
The district also submitted a sub-appeal questioning Judge Bob Wortham's ruling prohibiting the use of bond funds to demolish South Park.
In a previous interview, BISD attorney Melody Chappell told the Southeast Texas Record the school board voted on March 18 to use approximately $135,000 from general capitol funds to tear down the building.
On Tuesday, May 5, Ninth Court justices affirmed Wortham's ruling, opining that the trial court had the authority to award attorney's fees for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty, according to the court's opinion, authored by Chief Justice Steve McKeithen.
Attorney Michael Getz, who represented the Heritage Society and Estilette, claims he's racked up around $50,000 in attorney's fees.
Appeals case No. 09-10-00155-CV
Trial case No. D184-425